Putting the offender in focus – The NetClean Report 2017
I am proud this week to announce the release of NetClean’s third report on child sexual abuse crime. Like previous years the report consists of data gathered from police officers across the world, with additional comments by expert professionals working to combat child sexual crime.
The data itself makes the report unique, and the added commentary really helps us achieve our aim to contribute to the debate around how to fight child sexual abuse.
We all want to stop child sexual abuse and the dissemination of child sexual abuse material; the question is just how we do it? Where do we focus our research and our resources?
The report shows us that if we are going to tackle this problem we have to face some facts that can be hard to swallow. One of these is understanding that there is no stereotypical offender, and that people who commit hands-on sexual abuse often are closely related to their victims. We also need to look more closely at the correlation between viewing child sexual abuse material and committing hands-on abuse.
Focus on the offender
Our survey highlights how unhelpful it is to believe in ill-conceived stereotypes of the offender, which are often perpetuated by media and common ideas. We need to face the truth that the only thing that we can say is that the offenders are most often men. Other than that we know that offenders exist in all sectors, in all parts of society and that they are as often as not in a relationship.
The survey showed that child sexual abuse material is viewed all hours, including during work hours. Therefore it is important that police officers also include the perpetrators place of work and the equipment and networks that they use there when looking into the extent of the crime. If the police can work effectively with employers, and if employers are made aware of how they can safeguard their equipment and look out for offenders this will be another step towards saving children from abuse.
Likewise, given more time and resources the police officers might find evidence of hands-on abuse if they are always tasked to consider the correlation between viewing child sexual abuse material and committing hands-on abuse.
We also need to be aware of new trends if we are going to tackle the problem of child sexual abuse efficiently. In the survey the police officers said that they are seeing an increase in the use of chatrooms and apps, encryption and anonymisation technologies. Conversely they are seeing a reduction in material that has been stored to hard drives. What we take away from this is that we need to continue to focus on technology that can block websites and intercept material as it is being viewed or shared.
The big picture
Whatever we focus on, the report also highlights that it is important that we realise this is not a problem that can be solved by lawmakers and police officers alone. This is a problem that must be addressed by all sectors and all parts of society. By increasing our knowledge around the problem and by bringing it out into the open we will get more and better targeted resources to tackle child sexual abuse and the dissemination of the abuse material online.